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Particulate matter deteriorates air quality in many ways. We have a smart solution to fight it.



Increased and steady particulate matter concentration is a manifestation of climate change hazard, predominantly for drier regions of the world. Particulate matter is made up of different particles suspended in air, such as dust, sand and smog, which are mostly harmful to human health.

Particulate matter concentration is a major health problem in industrial cities. For this project one of Iran’s major cities, Isfahan, has been chosen. It has a population of over two million people. There are different reasons for particulate matter’s occurrence in Isfahan.Its location and dominant winds have made it prone to high concentrations of particulate matter.

For decades, the neighbor country Iraq would allow Iran to use different methods, mostly synthetic mulch, to reduce the rise of soil from the ground. However, concerns about the effect of synthetic mulch on the Iraqi ecosystem have brought this strategy to a halt. Many areas in the middle east now face increased dust and sand storms from nearby desert areas. This raises the concentration of particulate matter to dangerously high levels.

Isfahan is also an industrial city. One cannot overlook the effects of exhaust gas from the industry. To add to this case, Isfahan also faces the challenge of traffic congestion. The fossil fuel used for both cars and buses increases the amount of particulate matter or air pollution in Isfahan.

To help people’s wellbeing, we have come up with some simple, yet reliable solutions: smart filter utilization for different pollution scenarios. The nominal size of these filters depends on the dominant risk that faces the citizens. The mask type for a windy day has to be finer than that of a day with still air, and different from a sandstorm filter. This smart selection increases the efficiency of filtration and improves the health and resilience of the community to drastic climate hazards.

What actions do you propose?

What people need in order to live through a period of high particulate matter concentration needs to be easy to use and affordable. There for we have come up with simple yet affordable solutions; filtered masks which can be found in pharmacies, and home air filters that can be purchased easily.

One of the first steps would be making people aware of the fact that just because they do not see the particulate matters in the air, it does not mean that they do not exist. This action will need the cooperation of the City and the media, for advertisement is the way to go for raising awareness.

The next step would be making filtered masks affordable and available to a higher percentage of the population. This strategy is easier to implement as some affordable filtered masks are already commercially available.

Masks must be designed with respect to the specific hazard in hand. In other words, the notion of one size fits all concept should no longer apply for air pollution masks. The hazards from particulate matter are now diverse, and so must be our remedy to that.

On this front, research should aim at investigating the particle size distribution in different hazardous situations. Possible variations include sandstorms, high winds, and inversion. These results can then be used to determine the appropriate sieve size for air filters.

As for home air filters, the filter capacity, as well as the sieve pore size should vary in size on the household size and the particular hazard, respectively. To make these air filters available, we must make them affordable and accessible. Presently, these filters are commercially available and feasible for installation in commercial malls. Our estimates show that the economy of scale can make them feasible and affordable for multi-family housing units and eventually smaller houses as well.

Air filters are necessary especially when the density of particulate matter is high. At such instances, seniors and vulnerable groups are asked to stay home. These people are the most vulnerable in times of high particulate matter concentration.  They won't breathe clean air at home if the inside air quality is poor. Thus home air filters can help purify the indoor air, while filtered masks help keep the particulate matters out of our lungs. 

Our two-pronged solution to the air quality control aims at reducing the exposure to particulate matter at two levels: a smart choice of masks for outside commute, and a proper filtration system for inside. We believe this solution can improve the quality of life for millions of people living in the proximity of a desert or deforested areas.

Who will take these actions?

Central government: Funding for research on air pollution characterization, and seed funding for mask manufacturing.

Local government (municipality): Funding for information dissemination and raising awareness.

Academia (Engineering): Research on particle size distribution for pollutants.

Academia (Medicine): Prioritizing the particulate matter inhalation risks for different age groups.

NGOs: Raising awareness about particulate matter risks.

General public: Peer education and help in policy implementation.

Where will these actions be taken?

The solution is applicable to the Middle East and Africa.

The more sources of particulate matter exist, the more complex the solution would become. A highly populated city, in the proximity of both desert area and chemical industries, is the ultimately complex situation.

What are other key benefits?

Wearing a mask is a constant reminder of the challenge of living in the times of rapidly changing climate. This inconvenience can be a stimulus to more radical actions on climate change, rising from the popular demand.

What are the proposal’s costs?

R&D costs for pollution characterization and mask design, marketing and advertisement costs, production and distribution costs of filters.

Time line

The potential for completion is less than two years. Steady incremental improvement can be envisioned for post-release.

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